Alternative Route to Certification

In the past, teachers’ colleges, also known as “normal colleges,” had a virtual monopoly on providing the route to teacher certification. However, a move is now afoot to provide alternate means of achieving teacher certification. Some universities have implemented crash courses for certification, producing “six week wonders” i.e. those who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack state requirements for certification. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Officials in Washington, D.C., and New York State, where some of the best-known education schools are located, have stepped up criticisms that the schools are still too focused on theory and not enough on the craft of effective teaching. Now, some states are exploring the possibility of providing alternate certification routes.”
In previous entries, I have explored the positive results of the Teach for America program. I’ve speculated that these neophyte teachers are successful because they are highly educated in a specific academic area, rather than in educational theory. They enter their classrooms devoid of teacher certification, but armed with knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment. Now, they may be able to acquire their certification through specially designed programs. “The United States secretary of Education is also trying to expand these programs. The 2011 federal education budget doubles the financing for teacher training through a $235 million fund that will go to both alternative and traditional preparation programs focused on high-needs schools and subjects.” He admits that while some schools of education, like Columbia Teachers’ College, provide good training, “Many, if not most, of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.”
In New York State, teachers must obtain a Master’s Degree within five years to receive professional certification. The Board of Regents, the governing education body in New York, would create a partnership with alternative programs. They would allow these programs to develop their own paths to certification, subject to their approval. For example teachers who emerge from Teach for America and work in “high risk” schools for a minimum of four years could be eligible for certification in the state.
These efforts are laudable, but are they enough? Individuals who continue to enroll in colleges that provide traditional routes to certification need much more than theory. Some education professors haven’t set foot in an actual K-12 classroom in decades, or at all, for that matter. The system is broken, so we need to repair it!

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